The ratio of monocytes and lymphocytes (ML ratio) in peripheral blood is associated with tuberculosis and malaria disease risk and cancer and cardiovascular disease outcomes. We studied anti-mycobacterial function and the transcriptome of monocytes in relation to the ML ratio. Mycobacterial growth inhibition assays of whole or sorted blood were performed and mycobacteria were enumerated by liquid culture. Transcriptomes of unstimulated CD14 + monocytes isolated by magnetic bead sorting were characterised by microarray. Transcript expression was tested for association with ML ratio calculated from leucocyte differential counts by linear regression. The ML ratio was associated with mycobacterial growth in vitro (β = 2.23, SE 0.91, p = 0.02). Using sorted monocytes and lymphocytes, in vivo ML ratio (% variance explained R(2) = 11%, p = 0.02) dominated over in vitro ratios (R(2) = 5%, p = 0.10) in explaining mycobacterial growth. Expression of 906 genes was associated with the ML ratio and 53 with monocyte count alone. ML-ratio associated genes were enriched for type-I and -II interferon signalling (p = 1.2 × 10(− 8)), and for genes under transcriptional control of IRF1, IRF2, RUNX1, RELA and ESRRB. The ML-ratio-associated gene set was enriched in TB disease (3.11-fold, 95% CI: 2.28-4.19, p = 5.7 × 10(− 12)) and other inflammatory diseases including atopy, HIV, IBD and SLE. The ML ratio is associated with distinct transcriptional and anti-mycobacterial profiles of monocytes that may explain the disease associations of the ML ratio.